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Sand Springs Group Ramps Up Fundraising Drive

By Stephen DravisWilliamstown Correspondent
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A group is hoping to buy and maintain the historic Sand Springs as a community resource.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — In a town filled with major capital improvement projects, the group looking to buy the historic Sand Springs Pool has dipped its toe into the water.

The non-profit Sand Springs Recreational Center Inc. on Wednesday ramped up its public fund-raising efforts with the announcement of an $80,000 "challenge grant" that will match every dollar donated to the cause between now and March 1, 2013.

Coming on the heels of the recently completed Williamstown Youth Center and coming as the town faces the prospect of big-ticket projects at the high school, police station and fire house, one might think the Sand Springs group would be worried about "donor fatigue."

Not so, according to SSRC President Janette Kessler Dudley.

"We're really encouraged by the outpouring of support for the youth center because it demonstrates how much support there is for youth and a for a healthy childhood in this community," Dudley said

"We've had a number of discussions with (WYC Director) David Rempell about integrating their summer camp program with Sand Springs. I think it's a really synergistic relationship. People recognize it enhances what the Youth Center has to offer. I'm very encouraged by how people in the community came out to support the Youth Center, and we're seeing the same thing with Sand Springs."

SSRC already has received significant help from major donors: Josiah and Penelope Low, Williams College, the Alice Shaver Foundation and a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.

"We hope that everyone who has fond memories of the pool, who uses the pool today, who recognizes the value of preserving our historical treasures, or who believes in the benefits of informal community gathering places, will give generously to this effort," said Josiah Low, who serves on the SSRC board.

Together, the major donors have raised $350,000 toward a goal of $575,000, according to the group's Wednesday news release. The group formed to purchase the pool complex earlier this year.

That money will be used to buy and and renovate the recreational facility, which dates back to the turn of the 20th century.

Among the community leaders joining Low and Dudley on the board is former Williams College swimming coach Carl Samuelson. In honor of him and his wife, the newly formed Carl and Nancy Samuelson Swim Academy promises to be a major user of the seasonal outdoor pool at Sand Springs.

The academy, which has enlisted the help of Olympic gold medalist and recent Williamstown transplant Samantha Arsenault Livingstone, will offer group, semi-private and private lessons to children and adults. It also plans to offer swimming scholarships to local children.

Keeping the pool affordable is a priority for SSRC.

"The college is pleased to be able to support the Sand Springs Recreational Center in its efforts to preserve this historic local resource and expand its outreach to the community," Williams spokesman Jim Kolesar said in the SSRC news release. "In particular, the Samuelson Swim Academy looks to broaden the recreational and educational offerings available to all ages, especially children and young people, throughout Williamstown and beyond."

While the non-profit group wants to keep the cost of use low, it also needs to keep the pool viable. Part of the $575,000 it seeks to raise is earmarked for the facilities operating reserve, but the group has other plans to stay in the black, Dudley said.

"We're looking at a number of different revenue streams: renting space upstairs (in the pool house), renting the facility out for events, expanding the food service offerings," she said. "We've had our business plan vetted by a consultant who specializes in swimming facilities.

"The upstairs space is suitable for someone who operates a fitness business, whether it's yoga or Pilates or training."

Although the SSRC has been doing most of its fund-raising so far under the radar, the group believes it will get a strong response from the larger community, Dudley said.

"We have been in the quiet phase of the campaign, so we haven't been canvassing widely for donations. People we have contacted for the most part are excited about the non-profit model," she said. "We're optimistic the community will rally to save this resource."

Tags: challenge grant,   community center,   fundraiser,   Sand Springs,   swimming,   youth programs,   youth sports,   

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